Edward Markey’s effectiveness as chairman of the House Telecom Subcommittee has relied on the goodwill of John Dingell, chairman of the parent Energy and Commerce Committee. Now, that goodwill is threatened by Markey’s interest in a global warming assignment.
Global warming may be bad news for polar bears, but good news for broadcasters.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey to chair a temporary, high-profile House committee on climate change and energy independence.
The only problem is John Dingell. The Michigan Democrat, who has just been reinstalled as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, believes Pelosi and Markey are encroaching on his turf and he doesn’t like it.
If Pelosi and Markey go through with the their plans—and they are showing no signs of backing off—broadcast lobbyists believe that Dingell would undermine Markey’s efforts as chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee.
Any initiative that Markey’s subcommittee takes ultimately has to go through Dingell’s parent Energy and Commerce Committee.
Says one Hill insider: “Dingell’s got a long memory. One day, there will be something that Markey desperately needs and it will be very difficult for him.”
Indeed, there is one unconfirmed report that Dingell has already given his blessing to Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), a senior Telecom Subcommittee member, to work around Markey on telecom issues.
Broadcast lobbyists like the idea of a less effective Markey. An old-fashioned liberal, he is attuned to broadcasting’s critics and likely to favor heavy doses of regulation and public interest obligations.
Indeed, Dingell has sometimes helped broadcasters by curtailing some of Markey’s more regulatory-minded proposals.
“Now with this blood feud over jurisdiction, the next time Markey does something the industry doesn’t like, I think the Dingell people might be even more receptive to bopping him back,” says one industry source.
Dingell’s irritation with Pelosi’s proposal was clearly evident last week, when he told the Associated Press: “We’re just empowering a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs to go around and make speeches and make commitments that will be very difficult to honor.”
Moreover, Dingell suggested that the new global warming panel be called “the committee on world travel and junkets.”
And when the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman was reminded that Markey was one of his protÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©gÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©s, Dingell replied: “I won’t be able to help him on this undertaking, now will I?”
But perhaps what makes the situation even more dicey are press reports that other Energy and Commerce Committee members are also unhappy with Markey.
The Hill, a publication that covers Congress, quoted a senior Democratic staffer as saying that “members are angry with Markey because he already had a platform on these issues with three good committee assignments. Now it looks like he’s trying to take away more from other members to add to his own portfolio.”
As the publication also points out: “Markey, 60, arrived in Congress in 1976 after winning a special election. He’s become known for his expertise on telecommunications, energy and health issues. But he also is considered a media hound and his critics noted his penchant for foreign travel and being seen at A-list gatherings, such as last year’s Academy Awards and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.”
Markey spokesman Israel Klein downplayed talk of a rift between his boss and Dingell. Markey has not yet been named to head the global warming committee, he says. And even if he is, “the panel [Pelosi] envisions has no legislative jurisdiction. That means no bills will be processed through it and no legislative mark-ups will occur there.
“Since it is purely a select oversight panel, this will not affect Markey’s primary legislative service” as chairman of the telecom subcommittee, Klein says. “Chairman Dingell and Chairman Markey agree on the key telecommunications matters now facing Congress and both want to move forward.”
Others agree. As Media Access Project President Andrew Schwartzman predicts: “Markey likes to exercise power and he’s got a subcommittee and he’s going to do something with it.”
To establish the temporary global warning committee, Pelosi must get a majority of the House to go along with her. With many Republicans—and Dingell—opposed, that may be far more difficult than she originally believed.